Textual Commentary

The Lord's Prayer (LP)

as found in Matthew 6:9-13

by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version 1.2.0)

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The text of Matthew 6:9-13
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Textual commentary on Matthew 6:9-13
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There is strong evidence that the original Greek text of Matthew did not include the KJV's "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." The Lord's Prayer as it appears in Luke 11:2-4 also does not include "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 1910, page 16), says,

There is indeed some doubt among Bible scholars, whether the last line is not an addition to the prayer by a later copyist; but this does not affect the meaning of the prayer itself.

Bruce Metzger, in his definitive Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), comments regarding verse 13:

The ascription at the close of the Lord's Prayer occurs in several forms... Some Greek manuscripts expand "for ever" into "for ever and ever," and most of them add "amen." Several late manuscripts ... append a trinitarian ascription, "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen." The same expansion occurs also at the close of the Lord's Prayer in the liturgy that is traditionally ascribed to St. John Chrysostom.

The absence of any ascription in early and important representatives of the [most reliable manuscripts], as well as early patristic commentaries on the Lord's Prayer..., suggests that an ascription, usually in a threefold form, was composed (perhaps on the basis of 1 Chr 29, 11-13) in order to adapt the Prayer for liturgical use in the early church. Still later scribes added "of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Hans Dieter Betz (The Sermon on the Mount: Hermeneia Series, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1995, pages 414-415) commented:

Christian liturgical usage knows a doxology following SM/Matt 6:13: "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory into the ages. Amen"... This doxology, however, was not part of the "original" Lord's Prayer; it was not part of the Matthean SM [Sermon on the Mount] either. The reasons for excluding it are text-critical: the best and oldest manuscripts do not have it, and the earliest commentaries on the Lord's Prayer do not know of it.580 Also, the parallel in Luke 11:4 does not have it.581 In addition, those manuscripts that do contain a doxology have it in a variety of forms. Apart from this well-known textual situation, one needs to consider the following problems:

1. The text-critical situation raises the question of the origin of the doxology. Most scholars assume that it was composed on the basis of 1 Chr 29:11-13, but this hypothesis raises more questions than it attempts to answer. Joachim Jeremias seems to be right in providing a functional explanation. According to him, it was unthinkable that a performance of the Lord's Prayer should end abruptly on the word "temptation." Rather, the liturgical order was to end a prayer with a spontaneous praise that was cited from memory. This possibility seems indeed to be attractive. Still, it raises yet another question. While, as an oral text, the Lord's Prayer could very well have ended with some kind of praise, what about the written text? Was the doxology omitted in the written text because it was self-evident that it should follow? If the prayer instruction contained only what was necessary and not self-evident, the written form may have omitted the doxology as a noncontroversial custom that was understood to be observed anyway. When the Lord's Prayer later entered into the formal liturgical usage of the Christian church, the liturgical pressure exerted on the Prayer may have led to the inclusion of doxologies current at the time (2d/3d century CE), and this usage then influenced some copyists of the New Testament manuscripts. This possibility, while it does not answer all the problems, would at least mean that the doxologies attested at present in the manuscripts cannot have been a part either of the "original" oral text of the Lord's Prayer or of its written citation in the SM. If a Jewish doxology was used at the earliest stage, it must now be considered lost. The doxologies attested by the manuscript tradition, however, do not show traces of Christian theology; they are Jewish in formulation and theology. If they are taken from Christian tradition, they may simply have been adopted from Jewish liturgy. At any rate, the fluidity of liturgical materials generally should keep one from constructing a clear line of development from the prayer instruction to the doxologies found in the textual tradition of Matthew.

2. If one applies the category of doxology, one should be aware of a form-critical problem. The composition lacks the typical elements of a doxology. It does not begin with a dative but with "for".. (hoti) and a genitive (cf. Gal 1:5; Rom 11:36b; 16:25-27; Rev 5:1.3). Therefore, the designation "doxology" applies only in the general sense (see also Origen De orat. 14 and 33). Tholuck has questioned the category of "doxology" and prefers "aetiology" and "acclamation" ... Perhaps the original function of the "doxology" in the Lord's Prayer was that of a response by the worshiping congregation. While the prayer was spoken by the liturgist, the community responded with the "doxology," so that for this reason it was not regarded as part of the Lord's Prayer itself. This possibility is strengthened by the concluding response "Amen."

3. The doxology does not harmonize with the Lord's Prayer at some points. It remains unclear to which referent hoti ("for") refers; it may refer to the first three petitions or to the whole prayer. Except for the term "kingdom" (basileia [6:10a]), its language plays no role in the Prayer itself, nor is it reflected elsewhere in the SM (cf. Matt 6:33a). Thus, I conclude that in language, form, and theology, the doxology came from Jewish and Christian liturgy and was inserted in some manuscripts at a later time.

580 Tertullian [160-225 A.D.], Origen [185-254 A.D.], and Cyprian [martyred 258 A.D.] do not know of it.

581 Interestingly, variant readings do not exist that would insert it into Luke 11:4.


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Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer